Hoteliers having hard time coping with fuel crisis; deplore government apathy

Kathmandu, October 30

Lack of fuel has badly affected star hotels, including international hotel chains in the Capital, which in turn has disseminated negative image of the country’s tourism sector.

Even though hotels have been included among essential service providers, hoteliers allege they are not being favourably treated by the government. More recently, they have complained that government agencies have been apathetic towards their problems.

BK Shrestha, owner of Hotel Radisson and chairperson of Hotel Association Nepal the umbrella body of hotel operators in Nepal said majority of star hotels in the Valley are facing operational difficulties due to lack of fuel. Sixty-year-old Shrestha said it has become a daily routine for him, as HAN chair, to meet government authorities in a bid to solve the problems of hoteliers. However, he alleges the government has not taken their problems seriously.

“We’ve never had to face such a dire situation before,” he said.

A majority of restaurants have already closed due to lack of liquefied petroleum gas. Moreover, ineffective distribution of the limited fuel has hit the hotel industry hard.

“One cannot even comprehend the loss to the tourism sector should the international hotel chains and big hotels run out of fuel,” said Binayak Shah, general secretary of HAN.

According to him, hotels have already slashed the items on their menu due to dearth of cooking fuel.

Though most of the major hotels are located in the Capital, the problem has spilled over to other popular tourist destinations as well. Pokhara, for one, is also facing a similar problem, said Shah.

Hoteliers are equally, if not more, anxious about the inevitable increase in load-shedding hours during winter season. Shortage of diesel to run generators threatens not only to destroy the business of hotels, but has put the future of the entire tourism industry at stake.

It is being reported that hotels are failing to meet the standards of star hotels due to lack of diesel to run generators even five-star hotels are said to be having difficulties providing air-conditioning facilities to guests.

At a time when much needs to be done to help the country recover from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of this year, the shortage of fuel has added to the challenges of reviving the already fragile tourism sector.

While international airlines continue to operate flights to Kathmandu despite the lack of refilling facility here, hoteliers warn that airline companies might decide to cancel their services if star hotels here fail to provide quality service.

Hoteliers have requested the government to manage a separate fuel station and dealer to distribute fuel to hotels. HAN has even offered to take the responsibility of facilitating distribution of fuel to hotels. However, the government continues to remain mum on the proposal as well.

Because of the earthquake and the current crisis, hotels have only 25 per cent occupancy even though this is the peak tourist season. Hotel operators say they are having problem even in accepting advance booking.